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Penguins try to avoid sweep by Devils

by Mike G. Morreale

PENGUINS (41-23-5) at DEVILS (41-24-3)

Last 10 -- Pittsburgh 6-1-3; New Jersey 5-4-1

Season series -- The Devils and Penguins will be meeting for the second time in six days at PrudentialCenter with first place in the Atlantic Division and the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference on the line. The Devils have owned the Penguins this season -- they're 5-0-0 in the season series while outscoring the defending Stanley Cup champions 17-3. The most recent Devils' victory, a 3-1 decision last Friday, was a physical, end-to-end game. The referees assessed a combined 73 penalty minutes, including 49 during a hotly-contested second period.

Big story -- With a victory, the Devils would become the first team to sweep the season series between the clubs. New Jersey, incidentally, hasn't lost a series to the Penguins in eight seasons. The Penguins last got the best of the Devils during the 2000-01 campaign, finishing 3-1-1.

Team Scope:

-- The Penguins' top two scorers in each of the last three seasons -- Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin -- were banged up a bit during a 2-1 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning on Sunday. Crosby wasn't seriously injured after getting tangled up with Lightning forward Steve Downie in the first period. The Penguins captain favored his right leg after it bent outward 40 seconds into the game, but returned and recorded an assist in 24 minutes of ice time. Malkin didn't finish the game after taking a shot on the right foot by teammate Kris Letang late in the second period. X-rays taken Monday were negative and he's listed as day to day.

Devils -- New Jersey will celebrate St. Patrick's Day with a little green. The players will be wearing their throwback red, white and green jerseys against the Penguins for the first and only time this season. It'll mark the first time since the end of the 1991-92 season that the Devils will done the classic attire. Not surprisingly, the players are very much looking forward to it. In fact, goalie Martin Brodeur will be wearing a replica of the mask he wore in his first NHL game on March 26, 1992. Additionally, don't be surprised if Devils coach Jacques Lemaire gets in on the fun.

"Maybe I'll wear a green tuque," Lemaire quipped following his team's 3-2 victory over the Bruins on Monday. "I'll try and get a green hat."

Who's hot -- Penguins left wing Pascal Dupuis, who plays on a line with center Jordan Staal and Matt Cooke, has scored four times in seven games since the Olympic break.

"They're going in right now," he said. "It seems like when you're in that groove you're finding the open spot on the ice, you're feeling it, you're not overreacting to everything, and you're not overanxious to be playing too fast. That's where I feel my game's at right now."

Injury report -- The Devils are still without defenseman Paul Martin (fractured left forearm). Pittsburgh's Malkin (right foot) is probable.

Stat pack -- New Jersey's victory over the Bruins on Monday assured the organization its 18th consecutive .500-plus season, matching the Detroit Red Wings for the longest in the League. In addition to being the longest current streak among the four major sports, it's also the third-longest in NHL history behind Montreal (32) and Boston (29).

Puck drop -- "It's a big game Wednesday, but we just have to come out and play the same way we did (against Boston)," Devils forward David Clarkson said. "We have to play with that same intensity and physical style. It's another game for us, but we have to play playoff hockey right now -- hard-nosed."

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